Car ownership

In the last posts, I focused solely on work-related stuff.
I will keep doing this in the future, however one occasional, off-topic post doesn’t hurt.
In fact, it’s cross-pollination, and diverse topics, that stimulate creativity and interest.
(p.s. remember that there is a monthly newsletter, if you like love what I write)

Today I’m writing about “car ownership”, as a consequence of something that I’ve read a few minutes ago.
Look at this figure below.

The article concludes with “A new paper from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace argues that the number of cars per capita is a better way than income alone to track the size of the middle class.”

My humble, personal opinion is that this is a wrong conclusion.

Italy doesn’t have a bigger (in percentage) middle class than Germany.
I believe that there are other factors that determine this outcome: public transportation; quality and quantity of roads available; fuel costs; average size of cities. Examples? Italy has a public transport system that is usually considered not as good as the German one; has higher fuel costs, less roads, comparable quality; more numerous, but smaller cities compared to Germany.

What’s your view? Why do you think Italy is ranked #1?
Do you think it’s a good thing, or a bad thing?

I’m a fan of car sharing, being eco-friendly, and public transportation, whenever they make sense. I personally would like to see less cars on roads, and a better use of these cars.

1 Comment

  1. Arseny Chernov · August 28, 2012 Reply

    It’s definitely a very strange index. I guess it’s a mixture of % of suburbanized citizens vs. % of living in countryside and versus # of railroads km per capita that somehow could reflect the same… I.e., tough relief of Northern Italym, absence of investments in to railroads during “those” days mid-20th century, plus the house-ownership tradition somewhere in-country. If you think about, living in suburbanized Milano and having parents in Padova – you can only travel by car! There’s no other mean, historically, – and everyone is stuck in the traffic.

    In Italy, another answer would be that public transport is not developed well as historically Vespas were the first steps after bicycle, due to the climate they allowed almost round-the-year service, hence there were no significant investments into bus systems in cities. Guess what, after Vespa, encouraged by absence of high parking fees, everyone started to adopt cars. Now it’s part of the culture.

    To “clean up” this index, it would be essential to exclude older cars from “cars per capita”, as I think this bias towards Italy and Germany is dictated by the history of car-making. If you look at top 5 classes in every country, they were always leading and stayed in economy-, micro- and mini- class cars (like Seat, Fiat 500 or Golf). These classes serve tight corners and constrained carparks of traditional European streets (not interstate highways in US or part of status in Japan), but they couldn’t travel much (i.e. Sacramento to San-Francisco every day), hence their usage on average is probably lower, hence they wear out less and serve longer. Diverse credit rates in developed banking systems allow having second, third, fourth car in family.

    It may also be related to how citizens treat cars. Almost all cars in Italy, Spain and even Germany have little scratches, little bit destroyed while parking. No one is rushing to insurance company. So over time, TCO for the bank to own the car is low, and they don’t need to hedge their loans by massive insurance contracts, – hence the car price is more accessible to the end-user.

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